Imaginative Project Management

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What does imagination have to do with Project Management? Well, you’d be surprised!

Many projects are planned as if everything is expected. It’s a natural tendency which is backed up by the common tools used by Project Managers.

Sure, any PM will tell you that Risk Management is an essential part of the plan. But in practice, in many cases, the risks the project staff comes up with are ones they already encounter either in previous projects or even in the current project. They might be important to manage, but they are trivial in the sense that they are more or less expected.

But reality has its own plans. And so, most (if not all) projects are on a collision path with something less expected. Maybe that’s the reason the vast majority of projects don’t meet their targets.

But how can you plan (or anticipate) something which is by definition unexpected? The answer is obvious: use your imagination.

Here are two imagination-based exercises to get you started. Do them with major stakeholders in your project. Don’t let cynicism enter the room and the results will be apparent.

First, imagine a day somewhere near the planned completion date of the project, and it is a catastrophe! You know what? Imagine it’s an apocalypse. Imagine it’s the worst project ever been done. Now, together with the key stakeholders in your project, backtrack from this vivid picture and try to understand in “retrospect” what caused it to be such an epic failure. Write down whatever comes to mind, no matter how far fetched it seems.

When you had enough of this glimpse of the horrific imaginary future, you will have a list of potential risks, and some of them are bound to surprise you. You can now try to analyze their probability and decide which ones should be mitigated.

Imagine your project becomes an instant textbook classic for generations of PMs to come.Click To Tweet

Now for the fun part. Try to imagine, together with your colleagues, the finish line of the project, but this time, imagine this is the best project ever. It’s perfect. Imagine your project becomes an instant textbook classic for generations of PMs to come. Imagine the CEO of your company personally congratulating each and every one of you on the amazing job you’ve done.

Imagine you sit back and relax after the successful launch, and you try to analyze what was it that made this project so good. Write everything down. And you’ve just created a list of opportunities.

If you mitigate some of the unexpected risks you’ve listed and realize some of the opportunities you’ve identified, your project is on the right track.

Imagination can be a powerful tool. It allows you to jump forward in time and learn from whatever it is you see there. Are you ready to take a look?